When parents want to move their child to another classroom

August 28, 2014

in classroom management, hot topics

Having a parent ask to move a child to a different classroom can be a huge blow to a teacher’s confidence. And it’s an issue that nearly every educator will face at some point–if not at multiple points–in their career. Sometime parents don’t like the fact that you are forcing them to address issues they’ve tried to sweep under the rug. Other times it’ s a personality conflict, a disagreement over your teaching style, or simply an attempt to get their child into the classroom of a teacher they think will do a better job.

Regardless of the reason, a parent requesting to have a student transferred to another classroom is enough to shake any teacher’s morale. Here are 6 strategies to help you handle the situation effectively:

Consider the element of truth in the parent’s criticism and disregard the rest.

Think deeply about your teaching practice. What is the heart of the issue that the parent is complaining about? On what points is she or he correct? Everyone has skills which they can improve, and if the parent has identified some legitimately weak areas of your teaching, you owe it to yourself and your students to consider that. Discern for yourself which pieces of information are insults/exaggerations and which pieces have an element of truth that needs to be dealt with. Don’t get so caught up in being offended that you miss the opportunity to reflect on your teaching and improve it.

Don’t go on the defensive.

The first time a room change is mentioned, you might want to try smoothing things over: “I really love having __ in my classroom, and she’s adjusted really well and made some great friends. I’d love to keep her in my room. I feel confident we can come up with a solution together and move forward.” But if the parent is insistent, don’t fight tooth and nail over every complaint. Resist the urge to call the parent or write a 5 page letter defending yourself. Tell yourself, This parent thinks the child will do better in another classroom, and he has the right to think that. I wish the family the best. I’m moving on and focusing on the needs of the kids who are still in my room.

dealing with parents who want to transfer their child to another teacher's room

Remember that the parent truly believes s/he is acting in the child’s best interests.

In Awakened: Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching, I wrote a lot about the principle of separate realities. Other people will never the see world as we do, because they haven’t had all the same experiences we’ve had. That means trying to understand why they “don’t get it” will result in frustration every time because we each truly live in a separate reality. If a parent is requesting that his child be moved to another classroom, it’s because he sincerely believes that his or her child would be more successful there. You don’t have to agree with his position, but if you understand that the parent believes it deeply and is trying to advocate for the child, it’s easier to accept.

Let go of the offense: stop thinking about it, and stop talking about it.

Don’t tell everyone in the school about what happened. Don’t repeat the incident to all your friends, your spouse, your mom, and your neighbor. Don’t think about it, and don’t talk about it. The less you allow thoughts about negative situations to stay in your mind, the fuzzier your memories become, and the weaker your attached emotions get. Each time you are tempted to replay what happen, say to yourself, It’s over. I’m choosing not to think about that anymore.

Accept the fact that some parents are never going to like you.

I wish someone had told me that when I started teaching. I thought if I worked hard enough, they’d have no choice but to love me. But every year, I had at least one parent who gave me a hard time about pretty much everything, questioned my every move, and basically made me feel incompetent. No matter how accommodating I was, there was always a parent I could. not. please. Once I accepted that reality, it was a lot easier to handle. Instead of thinking, Why am I not good enough for her? I would think, There is no law of the universe stating that every parent is going to like me. This year, she is the parent who does not. That’s okay. It makes my job a little harder, but it won’t deter me from doing my very best each and every day.

Focus on the affirmations you’ve received, not the criticisms.

If the majority of your students’ parents think you’re doing a good job, why should you give one naysayer the power to destroy your self-esteem for the rest of the year? Reflect on and plan for areas that need improvement, but don’t replay your faults over and over. It’s human nature to put more weight on criticism than compliments, so we have to actively fight that tendency. At the end of each school day, make a mental (or written) list of all the things that went right and all the successes you had with kids and their families. Don’t lose sight of the progress both you and your students make throughout the year as you learn from your experiences. Repeat those small wins to yourself when you feel discouraged.

Have you had parents request to transfer their children to another teacher’s classroom? How did you handle it?

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Check out the free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa August 29, 2014 at 11:34 pm

This year my principal removed a child from my room before school even started. The reason? The parent called and told her he did not want a black teacher for his child. I told my principal, “His loss.”
Personally, I wouldn’t have moved the child. I teach in a public school, he could have taken his child to another school. I can’t dwell on it though, I have the remaining students to worry about.:) I just feel sorry for that child and how she is being raised.:(

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2 Angela Watson August 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm

Oh my, Lisa, that’s terrible! I see what you mean about that not being a valid reason to move the child. For your sake, I’m glad that the child was moved. Wow. Just wow.

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3 Lisa M August 31, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Angela.

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4 Lisa D. August 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Oh My! Had you said that, you’d have been fired!

So sorry that you had to experience that. I remember being glad when my son finally had a male teacher; my daughter was excited this year to ‘finally’ have a black teacher; there have been a number of African American teachers in her school, the dice have just never rolled her way.

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5 Lisa M August 31, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Thanks Lisa. It’s always a great experience when we allow our children to benefit form the diverse society we live in.

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6 Karel August 30, 2014 at 11:21 am

I just retired in June after 43 years of teaching, mostly first grade. Before you think, “There’s an old lady who must have been stuck in her ways,” I changed with the times and was always ready to try new ideas and was flexible in my teaching styles because every class is different. (I once had a colleague who had not changed his lesson plans for ten years!) and believe me parents and students certainly changed since I started teaching in 1971!
I have always been proactive when I knew that a “difficult” parent, or parents, were moving up to my class. I met with them before the end of the previous school year to introduce myself and get a “feel” for them and their child. It did ward off many negative feelings on the part of the parents. I also made them feel like we were partners in the education of their child, and invited them to assist in special projects when I needed more hands to help the students. I made sure that they knew that they were there not just for their child, but for the benefit of all the students.
Did this work all the time? Of course not; sometimes a student would transfer in from another school, so the situation might be an unknown. But I always tried to remain positive for the sake of their child, and usually ended up with the parents feeling that I was willing to work with them. I never had any parent request a move, but sometimes that was because I was the only teacher of a specific grade, so we had to learn to work together! I never placated them either or gave into their wants/requests. We would talk it out and come up with a solution acceptable to both of us. Other teachers would often cringe and go on the defensive before a difficult student/parent even entered their class. I just found that it was easier and better for all of us to be proactive rather than reactive.

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7 Angela Watson August 30, 2014 at 5:14 pm

This is wonderful advice and I am so appreciative that you shared it! It truly does make a difference to be pro-active with parents, just like we are with students.

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8 Stephanie Darden August 30, 2014 at 8:16 pm

This is just what I needed to hear! Especially reading Karel’s comment. I just had a very difficult student move into my class who I will have for science for the next 3 years. I went in terrified of how she was going to be in my room, but internalized it. When she came into my room the first day, I treated her as though I didn’t remember anything that had happened the year before and told her I was glad to start a new year with her. She hasn’t responded positively yet, but she didn’t respond negatively either. I’m excited to see how this year is overall. My new motto, thanks to you, is “Stop thinking about it and stop talking about it.” Thank you!

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9 Sonya September 14, 2014 at 11:10 am

My daughter was just moved from a grade 4/5 classroom she loved, two weeks into school starting. I was told by the principal that it was to accommodate the influx of new students and that she couldn’t move her back….I believe it was because the teachers/principal were fulfilling other parent’s requests for their children to be moved from the other grade 4 class… My daughter was devastated. Every parent who requests their child to be with friends in another classroom, or because they’ve heard negative things about a teacher don’t realize that to fulfill their complaints, they completely devastate another child who is forced to move out of a classroom they loved.

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